Sunday, October 20, 2019

Annual Increases in CO2 Emissions

BP has released its Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, which always looks authoritative because there are many pages of numbers all neatly aligned in rows and columns, and that's what counts, right.

They give lots of data on energy generation, such as
  •  renewable energy generation in 2018 was up 14.5% compared to 2017, but that's only 1/3rd of the total power increase.
  • Coal consumption was up 1.4%.
  • "Global energy demand grew by 2.9% and carbon emissions grew by 2.0% in 2018, faster than at any time since 2010-11." 
  • "The United States recorded the largest-ever annual production increases by any country for both oil and natural gas, the vast majority of increases coming from onshore shale plays."
Here are some CO2 emission numbers. The US annual increase was greater than both China's and the world's. For energy we were even hoggier than we were before.


Anonymous said...

pretty misleading.
In the same chart if you follow it back to 2008, the US was at 5675 million tons of CO2 so it is down considerably (and in fact was over 6000 at the turn of the century) since then. (and this does not take into account energy produced).
So to cite the year over year increase of those two years and declare the US more profligate is a misrepresentation of the actual long term situation

David Appell said...

The US *is* profligate -- our historical emissions are more than twice that of China, and our current per capita emissions are too.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you mean by our historical emissions are more than twice that of China. Look at the chart you display
By the current numbers of CO2 emissions in MtCO2 in 2017:
1. China 9839 (rising rapidly over the last 20 years) 27.2% of world total
2. US 5269 (dropping over last 20 years) 14.6% of world total
3. India 2467 (rising rapidly over last 20 years) 6.8% of world total

And while per capita emissions do raise the United States ahead of them, we are roughly equal to Canada and behind Australia and far behind most Middle Eastern countries

David Appell said...

I mean if you add up all CO2 emissions since 1850 the US has emitted twice as much CO2 as has China, and we continue to emit about twice as much on a per capita basis today.

Such data can be found in the World Resources Institute CAIT database. The BP reports have such data since 1965.

Using the CAIT database for 1850-2012, and the BP numbers for 2013-2018, I get that the cumulative emissions are

US: 397 Gt CO2
China: 206
India: 51

So if China keeps emitting 5 Gt CO2 per year more than the US, it will be 38 years before they catch up to us.

David Appell said...

For 2018 per capita numbers I get:

US: 15.7 t CO2 per person per year
China: 6.8
India: 1.8

China's is only 43% of the US's. India 11%.

David Appell said...

The world's average per capita emissions in 2018 was 4.6 t per person per year. Americans emit 3.4 times as much.

David Appell said...

You might find this interesting:

National contributions to observed global warming
H Damon Matthews et al
Environmental Research Letters 2014

Anonymous said...

What is the point of totaling up CO2 emissions since 1850 if you are worried about CO2 emissions today?
Of course if you take the numbers since 1850 we are way ahead. Our energy production was far more advanced.
That's taking in CO2 emissions without accounting for energy production and all the advantages it has given the world
That's just a tool to show how bad the US is. Naked political statistic.

it would appear that concentrating on CO2 production in the recent past when atmospheric concentrations have gone up (take 1970 or 2000 if you will) is what you should be concerned with. Not how much CO2 we put in the environment during the Civil War.

As for per capita, obviously the large populations of China and india lower their numbers - but so what?
The CO2 goes in the environment just the same.

As i said, per capita we are about equal with Canada.
We are below Australia.
We are below Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
What does that mean? We are not as big offenders as they are?

Layzej said...

We are below Australia.
We are below Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
What does that mean? We are not as big offenders as they are?

Yes. I think we can set our sights higher. There was a time when North America took pride in being leaders in technology and innovation. I don't think we need to abandon those ambitions.

Layzej said...

Off topic: Canada just had an election that some described as a referendum on climate change. The Conservative party promised to repeal the carbon tax. The Liberal party that introduced the revenue neutral carbon tax won a minority government.

It's probably not the final battle to be fought over this legislation, but it's a promising result.

If the Liberal government can complete an oil pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific then there is a good chance that western resistance to the carbon tax will evaporate. If not, then the carbon tax remains precarious.

David Appell said...

Anon: Yes, it's today CO2 emissions that cause today's temperature increase, but I think cumulative emissions matter ethically.

The US got very wealthy by burning fossil fuels and emitting a lot of CO2. Why shouldn't China and India expect they can do the same (assuming fossil fuels are still the cheapest way to generate energy and electricity)?

I think its large cumulative emissions places a moral burden on the US to lead the way to a cleaner economy, building technologies that not only cut its own emissions but can help China, India etc cut theirs too and avoid the kind of large historical CO2 emitted by the US. And a moral burden for the US to *remove* their CO2 from the atmosphere.

PS: And just to note, India shouldn't even be part of this discussion, since its current annual emissions are still only half of the US's.

David Appell said...

And, a fraction of China's emissions are from manufacturing items consumed by Americans. About 400 gigatons/yr, according to this Vox article (if I'm reading their map correctly). How much is this outsourcing responsible for US emissions going down and China's emissions going up? US emissions have gone down about 800 Gt CO2 since 2008, but perhaps half of that is from outsourcing them to China.

David Appell said...

Layzej, thanks for your comment. When you write about "western resistance" to the carbon tax, do you mean Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta?

Layzej said...

When you write about "western resistance" to the carbon tax, do you mean Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta?

Yes. I suppose I should say the prairies? Western BC voted for New Democrat Party (NDP). They are very much against a pipeline through their province and against oil tankers at their ports.

Ironically, Alberta introduced a carbon tax before the federal carbon tax was introduced. And it had the backing of the oil industry.

I think the goal was to address the issue for Canada on the demand side with the expectation that the country would rally behind Alberta on the supply side. The country did not come through and the Alberta carbon tax was repealed (only to be replaced by the federal policy).

David Appell said...

Layzej, are you interested in writing a guest post on the climate implications of the Canadian election? I'll post it under any name you want, and agree not to ever reveal your real name if you email it to me. (Or you can put it in a comment here, hopefully in HTML if there are links, blockquotes, italics etc involved, and I'll copy it to a new post.)

David Appell said...

PS to Layzej: And it doesn't have to be anything major -- just whatever (else) you might want to say. I'm presuming you're Canadian, so you'll have a much better perspective than me.

It's fine if you'd rather not.... Just thought I'd ask.

David in Cal said...

Here's a different approach to credit and blame. The best hope of reducing CO2 is to replace carbon-based fuels. Today, nuclear is the only major source of non-carbon fuel. The best long-term hope of eliminating carbon-based fuels is probably fusion. I suspect that the US may be spending more on fusion research than any other country. So, the US arguably deserves the most credit of any country for fighting global warming. YMMV


JoeT said...

"Yes, it's today CO2 emissions that cause today's temperature increase, but I think cumulative emissions matter ethically."

I agree with David on this, but it's more than an ethical argument, it's pretty basic physics. The forcing due to CO2 is a function of the cumulative emission, not just the emission over the last few years.

BTW Carbon Brief, as usual, has a nice graphic showing which countries were the 10 ten cumulative emitters since 1750.

JoeT said...

"Today, nuclear is the only major source of non-carbon fuel."

No, hydroelectric is.

"The best long-term hope of eliminating carbon-based fuels is probably fusion"

No. Fusion isn't anywhere close to putting electricity reliably and cheaply on the grid. If we have to wait for fusion, then the world is pretty much screwed.

"I suspect that the US may be spending more on fusion research than any other country."

You suspect wrong. This might have been true 30-40 years ago, but it's not now. The major source of funding for ITER, which is in France, is the European Union. China invests about as much into fusion as the US does, but it's hard to make a good comparison because salaries are not included in their budgeting. The US can hardly make up it's mind whether it's going to pay it's bill for ITER on a regular basis. All the new experiments are somewhere else, NOT in the US, which hasn't built a new machine in over 20 years. The UK, Japan, China and South Korea all have far more advanced tokamaks than the US. Germany has been operating the most advanced stellarator in the world since 2015. Right now there is a vigorous debate within the US fusion community about what aspect of fusion it might even have a chance of showing leadership in. The Department of Energy would rather send young scientists overseas to work on the new experiments rather than build something new here. With the US going deeper into debt, it's hard to imagine the US being competitive again.

"So, the US arguably deserves the most credit of any country for fighting global warming."

The argument isn't even remotely valid.

Anonymous said...

@ Joe T:
By that logic why stop at 1750?
Why not go back to 4000 B.C.?
Those fires the Greeks Romans Egyptians and Chinese made for centuries should count, shouldn't they?

It's ridiculous to look at centuries of CO2 production without looking at what the benefits of the energy created have been.
That makes this a far more complicated issue.

Cumulative emissions matter ethically?
How about moving billions of people out of poverty?
Does that matter ethically?

JoeT said...

"Why not go back to 4000 B.C.?"

Because it's an insignificant contributor to the cumulative CO2 in the atmosphere.

"How about moving billions of people out of poverty?"

There's no doubt that fossil fuels helped raise the standard of living around the world, but like whale oil and burning trees, burning even more fossil fuels isn't sustainable.

It's not fossil fuels that's important, it's energy. I am for massively increasing the available energy to the poor across the world -- the reason I went into fusion in the first place. But if you look at the distribution of fossil fuels in the world, there is little in the regions that are the most poor. Relying on fossil fuels in the developing world is like stringing up telephone cables, so that people can access communications, because that's the way it was done in the past. And if we really care about the poor, then it's the poor who will suffer the most in a warming world and have the least number of resources to employ technology to prevent the infiltration of sea water into their drinking water. Or be able to move to a new location.

Anonymous said...

1. I don't know that anyone is arguing to burn more fossil fuel, only the best way to transition until a new technology becomes feasible. (Perhaps fusion, altho that's been in the works for over 50 years).
2. Actually the way it was done in the past was with windmills and that seems to be one of the questionable transitions.
3. It's not clear that the poor will be hit hardest. There is debate as to whether warmer temperatures will open up more land for agriculture. Sea water infiltration from rising oceans is currently not the main mechanism- it is poor land use and drainage. At the current rate of 3 mm/year there'll have to be significant acceleration for that to be the main mechanism.
4. How did they calculate CO2 emissions form 1750 - by what mechanism?

JoeT said...

1. New technologies are already available. Sweden is a perfect example of a country which was able to increase its GDP while decreasing CO2 emission by relying on a combination of hydro and nuclear. Look at the report that David linked to, especially the chart on page 11: renewables are already catching up to nuclear with respect to share of energy consumption.
2. In the right locations wind is cheaper than coal and becoming competitive with other fossil fuels.
3. If there is any more land for agriculture it will be in the northern, rocky climates. In the regions where the greatest number of poor are, drought and excessive heat threaten food security. Salt water intrusion has already affected Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta.
4. Much of the data on cumulative CO2 comes from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC). You can google it just as well as I can.

David in Cal said...

Joe T - thanks for all your information. I sincerely appreciate it.

You say, "If we have to wait for fusion, then the world is pretty much screwed." I don't think the world is going to reverse the increase in atmospheric CO2. Hydroelectricand wind are capable of only limited expansion. Solar doesn't look like it will ever be a large enough source of energy to replace carbon fuels. Economizing can take us only so far. Nuclear fission could produce a lot more energy, but the world doesn't seem ready to make that investment.

We can set country by country goals. We can measure increase or decrease in CO2 emissions by country. We can allocate blame. However these things won't work IMHO. I don't think we're going to stop using fossil fuels until we have a practical alternative. That leaves two conceivable strategies:
1. Find some safe and practical geo-engineering approach
2. Devote our resources to coping with a warming world, via changes in infrastructure, agriculture etc.